Watching a TV show at home is hardly the story of what goes into it, so seeing a taping of “The Big Bang Theory,” the most popular comedy on TV, at Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles as the TV on DVD Examiner did while on a recent trip to Los Angeles, was quite an eye opener.
The taping began at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday night. We were told to arrive by 5:15 p.m. and pulled into the parking garage across the street. Also taping that evening was an “Ellen” show, and the garage was nearly full, but we managed to find a parking space.
We checked in, then were taken across the street to Stage 25 where the show is taped. Other shows by executive producer Chuck Lorre, including “Mom” and “Two and a Half Men” are also taped nearby, as are “Conan” and “Ellen.” We were taken inside. Cellphones were not allowed in the stage area, so we had to temporarily give them up to a security guard, but they were returned after the show.
Mark Sweet, who has been described as the one of the top warm-up comics in the business and also works other shows including “Two and a Half Men” and “Mike & Molly,” settled us in to get ready for the evening with a few gags. He then told the crowd they first would see an episode of the show on the monitors that had not yet aired. We won’t reveal any spoilers, but the main plot centered on Howard and Bernadette. The audience clearly enjoyed it and were ready for what was to come.
The actual taping of the show began. Tuesday is actually the end of the actors’ week for the show. It began the previous Wednesday with a table reading of the new script. Then various rehearsals are held until the actual Tuesday night taping in front of a live audience.
The actors were introduced and took a quick bow on the stage before disappearing behind the “floaters” – 12 foot movable screens in front of the sets. These would later come down in front from the sets that were needed as the various scenes were acted out.
The episode, titled “The Prom Equivalency,” begins in the cafeteria. We could not see the actors for this scene, but were able to watch it played on the monitors. The second scene, in Penny’s apartment, gave us the first actual view of live acting by Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch. The scene was redone a couple of times to fix dialogue and make sure everything was perfect. Only then would the show “move on,” as Sweet would tell us.
On the sound stage as on the show, Penny’s apartment, the elevator and Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment are next to each other and are actually permanent fixtures there. All the rest of the various sets as they are used are constructed as needed for each episode. In time over the course of the four-hour taping, we saw other faces we’ve come to know – Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, to name four.
It was interesting to see the actors before they entered each scene. They clearly were very serious and focused on their acting. Jim Parsons and Simon Helberg, especially, were deep in concentration and paced before entering their scenes. Occasionally, Mark Sweet would ask us to applaud the actors between the scenes and they would acknowledge it. Kunal Nayyar saluted the audience at one point. All the audience reaction on the show was live. There is no laugh track.
Some segments were pre-taped and were shown on the monitor. By the end of the night, we saw the entire episode except for executive producer Chuck Lorre’s end card. So what did we see? We were asked not to reveal any spoilers. Let’s just say there is a definite development among two of the major characters, and a subplot involving two others.
After roughly 3½ hours, the taping was over and most of the audience left. But we were taken down to the set and allowed to walk around. Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar and Kevin Sussman (Stuart) were all there, talked with us and were very friendly, allowing us to take pictures with them. We even got to sit in Shelden’s spot and on his bed.
Seeing the actors at work really makes you appreciate what they do. The entire taping process for the roughly 23-minute episode took roughly three hours. And that doesn’t include what had been already done in advance. It had been quite an educational evening. The episode we saw, “The Prom Equivalency,” is scheduled to air Nov. 6.
Series star Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, who plays Penny, will be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Wednesday, Oct. 29, a spokesman for the Walk of Fame tweeted Oct. 28. Those speaking at the ceremony will be executive producer Chuck Lorre and series co-stars Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg. The ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. PDT at 6621 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, and will be streamed live on the Walk of Fame website.